Bortolotti - Felsina Water

Bortolotti - Felsina Water

1827 | 1970 ca.


Pietro Bortolotti (d. 1860) had patented “Acqua di Felsina” (Felsina Water) in 1827, and the perfume also became (in the white and red variants) a “true and unique wondrous medicament, a "pleasant" comfort against illnesses and ailments”, so much so that in an advertisement of 1835 its use in Genoa to combat the cholera epidemic is reported. In 1876, it won the gold medal at the Philadelphia Exposition and in 1878 in Paris - at the Exposition Mondiale - it was awarded the only medal in this category, “for its true health-giving qualities and pleasant fragrance”, beating out the most emblazoned French and English maisons. In the course of time, production was enriched with numerous other products dedicated to body care and beauty and had to fight against counterfeits more and more often. It received awards from various royal houses, including those of Russia, Brazil, Portugal, France, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In both 1879 and 1888, he received a jewel as a gift from the Italian royal house in recognition of his appreciation of the famous Water. The founder lived in Vicolo della Scimmia, while the shop was located under the Pavaglione portico in Piazza Galvani. Later, a proper company headquarters was built near the railway station. The company continued in full activity until the end of World War II, but in the following decades it suffered a slow decline, essentially ending production around 1970. The shop under the portico of the Archiginnasio's “Pavaglione” is described as follows in the “Guida illustrata di Bologna - Storica artistica industriale” (Illustrated Guide to Bologna – Historic artistic industrial), published in 1892 by the Successori Monti Typography: “Among the richest shops, that of the Profumeria Bortolotti, one of the most renowned and artistic, must be considered first. A quick glance at the elegant display is enough to get an exact idea that what is sold there is relatively cheap and in perfect taste. The name of Pietro Bortolotti, the inventor of Acqua di Felsina, needs no illustration in the industrial world, as he brought no small amount of progress to the art of Perfumery, and so he rightfully chose to export his Acqua di Felsina to the furthest corners of the world, acquiring the honour of five sovereign patents and fourty-four medals at various exhibitions. Acqua di Felsina combines all the prerogatives hygiene demands in order to preserve the skin, ward off dental decay, purify the air and serve as a disinfectant and coolant in summer, especially in African climates. At the Bortolotti Perfumery, one can also find various specialities of his own invention in the form of extracts, soaps, tinctures, toothpowders, ointments, and cosmetics, all of which, due to the perfection of their manufacture, make them more desirable than those imported from abroad”.

The following text is taken from “Premiata Acqua di felsina - Ditta P. Bortolotti Bologna”, Bologna, 1902. Translation by Lorenzo Rocco, 2022.

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Modo di farsi intendere senza esprimersi
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Pietro Bortolotti, "Modo di farsi intendere senza esprimersi, ossia la profumeria divenuta il telegrafo del cuore umano", Bologna, Nobili, 1835 (estratto). Collezioni Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna

Acqua di Felsina
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Premiata Acqua di Felsina Ditta P. Bortolotti Bologna, Stabilimento Successori Monti, Bologna, 1902